One concern for many families homeschooling high school is keeping track of necessary testing required for college admissions. You may have heard of a long list of college tests: SAT, ACT, PSAT, SAT subject tests, AP, CLEP, Accuplacer, COMPASS. Fortunately, not every student will need to take every one of these tests. As a homeschooler you should carefully plan your college testing strategy based on the needs and goals of your student. Here’s a quick run-down on the most popular tests.
Most college-bound students take either the SAT or the competitor test, the ACT. The SAT runs a bit longer than four hours and features three subject areas – Math, Reading, and Writing. Each of the three sections is scored on a scale from 200-800. The test includes a mandatory 30 minute essay. The test costs $43 with extra fees for services such as late registration and sending scores to colleges. SAT registration for homeschoolers is available online or through the mail. Starting in the Spring of 2016 students will be taking a new redesigned SAT which will feature an optional essay and some changes in the style of math and reading questions.
The ACT is an alternative to the SAT. Most college bound students will take one or the other. The ACT is a bit shorter than the SAT. It features four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. On each of these sections students can earn a score from one to 36. The four section scores are averaged to give a composite score. The ACT also includes an optional 40 minute essay given after the end of the rest of the test, which is factored into the English score. The essay requires students to describe and analyze three different perspectives on a contemporary issue. While the essay is an optional part of the exam many selective colleges expect applicants who submit ACT scores to submit this score. The ACT test is offered at local schools and costs about $35 without and $50 with the writing section. To register visit the ACT website. The ACT is undergoing some revisions in the scoring process and style of essay question so students will want to be sure to prepare using up to date materials.
The PSAT/NMSQT is the practice SAT test as well as the qualifying test for the National Merit Competition. Many homeschoolers are interested in the test for the possibility of scholarship awards. The year that counts for scholarships is junior year but some students take the test for additional practice in 9th and/or 10th grade.
Colleges do not see these scores, so they are just for students to gain testing experience and identify what areas they need to work on before they take the SAT. The test consists of three sections – Math, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills. The tests is under three hours long and there is no essay. It is offered in October each year and homeschoolers register through their local public or private school. Costs vary slightly as schools can charge an administrative fee, but the total cost will be under $20. Starting in Spring 2016 the College Board is offering a new test called the PSAT 10 which will be available for 10th graders who would like to practice for the PSAT and SAT tests.
SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT IIs)
The SAT subject tests are taken as a means to show content mastery for college admissions. These tests are most important for highly selective colleges. Homeschoolers may have additional requirements for testing. Twenty different tests are available. They are grouped in five general subject areas: English, history, mathematics, foreign language, and science. The tests are an hour long and are offered on the same days as SAT testing. Not every subject test is offered on every testing date. Tests run around $25. Homeschoolers can register online or by mail.
Advanced Placement (AP)
These tests offered by the College Board are a way for students to demonstrate academic achievement and mastery of core content material. Currently 34 subject areas are tested and cover specific courses in core subject areas including English, Math, Science, Social Science, Foreign Language and Arts. Most exams are a combination of multiple choice and written response. Homeschoolers can use AP tests to provide evidence of academic achievement which can be especially important for colleges with selective admissions. Also, some colleges will provide college credit for higher scores on the test. Homeschoolers make take an AP class online or they may self study for APs. Tests are offered in May. The 2016 fee for APs is $94 and homeschoolers may also find some schools add a proctor fee. Homeschoolers register through local public and private schools.
The College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
CLEP exams offered through the College Board. These tests are meant to demonstrate college level equivalency knowledge in subject areas. 33 exams are offered in five subject areas. Some colleges will accept scores on these exams as the basis for granting college credit. CLEP tests, with some exceptions, are all multiple choice exams offered on the computer. Homeschoolers may take at local test centers often located at community college. Tests run $80 -$100 including local test center fees. CLEP registration information is available online. CLEP is getting a lot of buzz in some homeschool circles due to the popularity of online degree programs based largely on credit by exam.
Accuplacer and COMPASS
Students enrolling in two year colleges such as community colleges, may be asked to take one of these computerized entrance exams. The exam will be offered on site at the college. Typically these exams are used to determine placement in courses such as reading, writing, and math. The ACT has announced they are discontinuing the COMPASS exam in January 2016.